It’s already a memorable year for Australian TV drama. Boy Swallows Universe (Netflix) and Prosper (Stan) are both superb and Total Control (iview) returns for its explosive final season.
Boy Swallows Universe (Netflix) is about alcoholism, drugs and poverty, yet somehow it becomes a thing of beauty. This is a show that will haunt you, and in a good way. I don’t think I will ever forget the brilliant sequence in which little Eli Bell breaks into prison to see his mum for Christmas.
Boy Swallows Universe career-best performances
Phoebe Tonkin is heartbreaking as the boys’ mother, while Kate Box and Deborah Mailman deliver as usual in supporting roles. Travis Kimmel and Simon Baker, however, could be delivering career-best performances as two troubled souls, while Bryan Brown, Anthony LaPaglia and Adam Briggs are spot on as career criminals.
Boy Swallows Universe is anchored by star-making performances from Felix Cameron and Zac Burgess both playing Eli. Also Lee Tiger Halley as Gus who rarely speaks, but says so much with his eyes and smile. What a joy and a privilege to see Trent Dalton’s novel becoming such a luminous production.
Prosper is another great Stan commission
Prosper (Stan) is another great commission from the streamer that makes the most local drama of them all. They’ve done it again with this tale of an Australian megachurch trying to break into the lucrative American market. Overseen by a fractured family with a wealth of issues, it is headed up by the winning team of Richard Roxburgh and Rebecca Gibney (listen to our special TV Gold podcast with Rebecca Gibney here on Friday).
Ewen Leslie plays the uncomfortable eldest son, and he’s joined by lesser-known but equally excellent actors like Jacob Collins-Levy, Hayley McCarthy, Ming-Zhu Hii, Jordi Webber and Alexander D’souza. Jacek Korman is also on hand to play the family’s fixer, who is much in demand.
There’s more than a nod or two to Hillsong, with drug-fuelled romps, the celebrity pop star endorser, and the shady connections to politics. Hypocrisy looms large, and thanks to clever locations and cinematography, Prosper always looks rich and believable. The clifftop mansion family home may have just been seen in The Last King Of The Cross (Paramount+). Who else can afford beachfront luxury except for John Ibrahim and evangelical Christians?
There’s even more than Boy Swallows Universe and Prosper on offer already this year. The third great Aussie drama is Total Control (ABC and iview) back for its third and final series. It now exists in an alternate universe also dealing with the aftermath of Covid lockdowns and ongoing bushfires. Like The West Wing, Total Control is an idealistic iview of politics. There may be corruption and backstabbing, but hopefully, some of them are trying to do the right thing.
Two new episodes of TV Gold
Mediaweek’s television podcast TV Gold is now three episodes into the New Year. On Friday two of those new episodes will be going live on your favourite podcast platform.
• Prosper, True Detective S4, Culprits, Role Play, Criminal Record
The new Australian drama Prosper (Stan, series) is a must-watch for many reasons. Especially for the great work of Rebecca Gibney, Richard Roxburgh and Ewen Leslie as family members running the U Star church.
Also this week we review True Detective S4 (Binge/Foxtel, series) featuring the work of Jodie Foster, Culprits (SBS On Demand, series), Role Play (Prime, movie) and Criminal Record (AppleTV+, series).
• TV Gold bonus episode: Special guest Rebecca Gibney from Stan’s Prosper
In this bonus episode, Andrew and James talk to one of the stars of the Stan series Prosper, Rebecca Gibney. In the Stan Original about an evangelical megachurch run by the wealthy and powerful Quinn family, Rebecca plays Abi, a pastor at the U Star church and the husband of the founder Cal, played by Richard Roxburgh.
On the podcast, Rebecca talks about what drew her to the character of Abi, her own experience with religion, and the amazing cast she co-stars with. She also discusses the main locations scouted by the team at Lingo Pictures –the U Star HQ and the Quinn family home which looks like a house that appears in another recent Australian hit drama series. This is the ultimate TV Guide to Prosper.
Boy Swallows Universe was reviewed in the first TV Gold episode of 2024.